Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night at Amazon
"Guaranteed to go down in history as one of the greats."
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood at Amazon
"It's satisfying in every sense of the word, rife with tension, and worthy of being called one of the best Castlevania games."
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin at Amazon
"An exciting riff on the typical Castlevania premise."
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow at Amazon
"An attractive mixture of futuristic and classic Castlevania aesthetics for character designs, costumes, and weapons."
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia at Amazon
"A refreshing change of pace that still manages to bring some newness to the series."
Castlevania (1986) at Amazon
"While this game may have seemed simple at the time, it's worth experiencing to see where this iconic franchise's roots lie."
Castlevania: Bloodlines at Amazon
"Worthy of going down in history as one of the best games to carry the iconic name."
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse at Amazon
"This was the return of Castlevania after a major stumble in a big way."
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon at Amazon
"Another knock-down, drag-out battle to the death for the master vampire, and another home run for the Castlevania faithful."
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance at Amazon
"This is quite possibly the best-looking of the Game Boy Advance entries."
The sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night became something of a cultural gaming icon considered by many to be the pinnacle of the Castlevania series. This exemplary title ushered in an important age for the games as a whole, taking some of the most excellent aspects of older entries and combined them into one. The result? A masterpiece of a game with a sweeping soundtrack, tightly refined controls, and grandiose boss fights. Dracula's half-vampire son Alucard awakes to explore Dracula's Castle for a lengthy, meaty adventure filled with satisfying combat and challenging puzzles.
With fantastic platforming elements, solid level design, and a compelling narrative, it was practically guaranteed to go down in history as one of the greats when it debuted, and that it has. It's widely considered by many to be one of the best video games in the "Metroidvania" genre and gaming as a whole, and for good reason. When you say Castlevania, this is the game everyone's minds go to – and for good reason.
Originally released on the Japanese TurboGrafx-16 (the PC Engine), Castlevania: Rondo of Blood debuted in the United States on the Super Nintendo as Dracula X, a port that couldn't hold a candle to the original. Putting players in the shoes of Richter Belmont and his lover's sister Maria, it included multiple branching paths, excellent audio effects (thanks to the TurboGrafx-16), gorgeous graphics, and action-based combat that took players deep into the heart of Dracula's Castle on a journey to save Richter's girlfriend Annette, kidnapped by Dracula. It's satisfying in every sense of the word, rife with tension, and worthy of being called one of the best Castlevania games of all time, just below its eventual sequel, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
One of the best Castlevania adventures was actually one that released later in the series, and on Nintendo DS at that. It was an exciting riff on the typical Castlevania premise, however, as it introduced several new protagonists and enemies and expanded upon the two-character gameplay system introduced in an earlier title. Players swap between heroes Jonathan and Charlotte, much like the same system introduced with Julius in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow.
They can work in tandem for a powerful attack called "Dual Crush," and can use similar abilities to solve puzzles later in the game. With multiple endings, over 155 enemies to fell, and familiar throwbacks to earlier entries in the series, it's one of the most feature-rich games yet, and the first to add cooperative multiplayer for the first time (and the second to have multiplayer).
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow introduced one of the most unique Castlevania protagonists yet: Soma Cruz, the teenage reincarnation of Dracula himself. He's ferocious and powerful, with a major chip on his shoulder. He brought frenetic energy to this Game Boy Advance adventure, which worked well with the mixed-up plot that happens to include Dracula returning to harass and even possess Cruz as part of a deeper narrative thread that'll immediately have you on the edge of your seat.
The most interesting thing about this particular Castlevania, however, is that instead of being a western fantasy game with retro aesthetics, Aria of Sorrow takes place in the future. The result? An attractive mixture of futuristic and classic Castlevania aesthetics for character designs, costumes, and weapons. It's also a portable entry that you can take with you, too, making it all the more impressive a feat given its visually pleasing stylized graphics.
Nintendo DS owners were lucky enough to get several Castlevania titles on the system, and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia was one of the most unique. Players embodied a new protagonist named Shanoa, part of an organization looking to vanquish Dracula following the sudden disappearance of the vampire-slaying Belmont family. You won't be employing any of the Belmont's famous weapons or powers, but Shanoa has her own inserting powers of her own.
The game uses a combat mechanic known as the "Glyph System" to enable Shanoa to collect symbols that may be equipped to her arms and back (over 100 of them, to be exact) to pull off a variety of different skills. There's also a wide variety of terrain within the game beyond Dracula's Castle, adding to the unique touches this DS entry brings to the table. It's a refreshing change of pace that still manages to bring some newness to the series, and for that, it should certainly be praised.
Sometimes, the original is the best, and you've got to give the first Castlevania props. When it first came to the NES in 1986, no one could have predicted how it was about to change the gaming landscape. Bringing side-scrolling combat, exploration, Gothic horror, and a tale about Dracula's castle to gamers still marveling over Mario and Duck Hunt, it featured only six levels, but six austere, challenging areas that required players' wits to be about them at all times.
It introduced vampire slayer Simon Belmont as well as his famous "Vampire Killer" whip, which would later become a mainstay of the series as well as gaming history as a whole. And while this game may have seemed simple and rudimentary at the time, it's worth experiencing the roots of this iconic franchise.
Castlevania: Bloodlines had the honor of being the only Sega Genesis entry for the series, but it was still worthy of going down in history as one of the best games to carry the iconic name. It follows heroes John Morris and best friend Eric Lecarde as they stand off against a centuries-old vampire named Elizabeth Bartley, who's working to bring her uncle Dracula to the 20th century so he can wreak havoc on the modern world.
As such, it doesn't take place in Dracula's castle and has a wholly unique look to it throughout the European countryside. It's an intriguing palette cleanser with its own set of environmental set pieces, great music, and some of the coolest battles you'll find in any of the Castlevania titles across all platforms.
Following the tepid reaction to Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, it seemed as though Castlevania fans had a long way to go before getting another decent game to look forward to.
Luckily, when Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse rolled around, it came to deliver. This release invited players to step into the boots of Trevor Belmont (as well as three other characters) to take the fight once again to pesky old Dracula – who you'd think had learned his lesson by then, but obviously not.
With varying story paths, multiple endings, and plenty of RPG and action-adventure elements sprinkled in for good measure. This was the return of Castlevania after a major stumble and started the series back down the path to excellence.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was another 2D side-scrolling Game Boy Advance entry in the Dracula-riddled mythos, starring new protagonist Nathan Graves. Graves made copious use of a special whip as well as a wide variety of weapons to punish enemies, but only one secondary option could be carried at a time.
This great-looking portable game features nonlinear gameplay, plenty of movement options for Nathan such as double jumps, wall kicks, and various other options to aid him in exploring a monster-ridden castle. The story is pretty involving as well, as it investigates Nathan's parents' death at the hands of Dracula as they worked to banish him.
It's another knock-down, drag-out battle to the death for the master vampire once more, and another home run for the Castlevania faithful.
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance was yet another entry in the Game Boy Advance library, which took place 50 years after Simon Belmont took it upon himself to break Dracula's curse once and for all.
Simon's grandson Juste Belmont steps in to follow in his grandfather's footsteps to rescue his childhood best friend Lydie Erlanger. It's another 2D side-scrolling Castlevania classic, but this particular entry includes two "layers" to each area: Castle A and B. Items to pick up, monsters, and other aspects of each castle can change between both versions as Juste explores each one, whether for the first time or during an additional trip through later.
The Vampire Killer whip makes another appearance as well. This is quite possibly the best-looking of the Game Boy Advance entries, too, due to its vibrant coloring and detailed sprites.